Category Archives: Leadership

How to become a grace-powered leader by Steve Lawson

For Christian leaders, there is a (potentially untapped) power available that can set each of us free from the inability to accurately and, in a healthy way, assess ourselves. An understanding—heart understanding—and reception of the fullness of God’s grace can revolutionize our self-image and position us to grow.

An expanded definition of grace

Grace, as it relates to Christians, has traditionally been defined as “unmerited favor.” While that is true, grace goes much farther than that. The first chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus is a great place to begin to understand what grace does in us. In this chapter, Paul begins to use a variety of words to describe our new identity. He calls us; saints, blessed, chosen, predestined, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and gaining an Inheritance (Ephesians 1:1-11, ESV). He has made us alive and honored us by seating us in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5, 6).

God’s grace does more than “save” us. It restores, transforms, and honors us. It redeems us and makes us valuable. A perfect example is found in the book of Ruth. Ruth is the story of a young woman from Moab whose Jewish husband dies, and she goes home to live with her mother-in-law, Naomi.  While she is there, she meets Boaz, a member of Naomi’s family. Boaz becomes Ruth’s “kinsman-redeemer.” It becomes his responsibility to marry Ruth so that the family line is preserved.

While this story is great in and of itself, what makes it even more powerful is the blessing spoken over Boaz at the end of the book. The city elders bless him, and at the end of the blessing they say; “And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.” On the surface, this may not mean anything. However, what is interesting is that Tamar is mentioned. Tamar’s husband died too. In addition, to carry on her family line, she disguised herself as a prostitute and slept with her father-in-law! In addition, she is mentioned here as part of a blessing. In a patriarchal society that ignores women, Tamar is mentioned in a blessing. It was not “Perez, son of Judah.”  It was “Perez, son of Tamar and Judah.”

Moreover, that is not even the end of it. The gospel of Matthew lists both Ruth (a non-Jewish woman) and Tamar (a prostitute) in the lineage of Jesus. This is an amazing picture of redemption.  To take something is worthless and make it valuable. For both Ruth and Tamar, they were worthless because they were women (in that culture) and they should have been despised as well – Ruth because she was not Jewish and Tamar because she prostituted herself with her father-in-law. However, they were made valuable by being included in the lineage of Jesus. It is amazing how the Old Testament treats them but then to be included in Matthew’s report of the lineage of Jesus.  That is incredible. The power of grace should never be underestimated.

Grace and leadership

Why is that important to pastoral leadership? Because a leader that understands that they have been redeemed – they have been made valuable by the power of grace – will never approach the concept of their own self-awareness the same way again. They become aware of their new identity in Christ. Their weaknesses no longer look like failures because they see them through the eyes of redemption. Their strengths do not produce arrogance because they are also aware of what they have been redeemed from.

When it comes to how they lead, the grace-filled leader begins to see others differently. Because they are beginning to understand that God sees them through grace-filled eyes, they can see others in that way as well. They are not threatened by differences. They can believe the best about others. Grace enables them to build the skills necessary to communicate, love, resolve conflict, etc., through the culture of the one(s) with whom they are interacting. They can truly and fully engage in servant leadership because they no longer need a job, a position, or the outcome of an exchange to elevate them. They have already been elevated. They have been redeemed.

That is the power of grace.


The overcommitted church  by Thom Rainer

Many churches have become too busy for their own good.

They have so many activities, programs, events, and services that they are wearing out their congregations.

Here is the irony. Most of the activities in these churches began with a noble cause to make a difference in the congregation and the community. But the members became so busy they don’t have time to connect with people in a meaningful way.

Ineffective congregations 

The overcommitted church has become the ineffective church.

So, how did our churches get in this predicament? The causes are many, but here are seven of them:

  1. Our churches equate activity with value. Thus, busy churches are deemed to be churches of value. Not surprisingly, busy, exhausted, and frustrated church members are also deemed to be Christians of value.
  2. Programs and ministries became ends instead of means.I recently asked a pastor why he continued a ministry that had dwindled from 220 participants to 23. “Because,” he replied, “this program is a part of the history and heritage that defines our church.” Warning: If a program defines your church, your church is in trouble.
  3. Failure of churches to have a clear purpose.Even the best of churches can only do so many things well. Once a church has no clear and defining purpose, it has no reason to start or discontinue a program or ministry. That issue then leads to the next two reasons.
  4. Church leaders have failed to say “no.”Some church leaders can’t say “no” to new programs and ministries because they have no clear or defining purpose on what they should do. Other leaders simply lack courage to say “no.”
  5. Fear of eliminating.Once a program, ministry, or activity has begun, it can be exceedingly difficult to let it die. Sometimes leaders lack courage to kill programs. Sometimes they are blinded to the need to kill programs. Sometimes they hesitate to kill a program because they don’t know a better alternative. We need more churches in the program-killing business.
  6. Church is often defined as an address.As long as we think “church” means a physical location, we will try to load up that address with all kinds of busyness. Many churches are ineffective at reaching their communities because their members are so occupied doing things at the building they call the church. That’s both bad ecclesiology and bad missiology.
  7. Churches often try to compete with culture rather than reach culture.A church in the deep South had a dynamic basketball ministry, where they fielded community basketball teams comprised of church members and non-believers.

However, once the church built its own gym and recreation center, church members started spending all their time playing at their new facility. In attempting to have a gym as good as those in the community, the church ironically became less effective in reaching those in the community.

Busy churches. Activity-driven churches. Overcommitted churches. Ineffective churches.

In my next article, I will share some ways churches are becoming less activity-driven and more effective.



From Biblical leadership platform

3 steps to shift from success to significance by Gerry Lewis


I wish I had paid better attention as I was growing up. There are so many lessons I had to learn by trial and error as an adult that happened right in front of me as a youth, but I wasn’t interested.

I expressed that thought to my stepfather in a recent conversation. One of those handy guys who can figure out how to fix just about anything, he could have taught me a lot in those early years. However, I was too busy and didn’t see the relevance of all that stuff, so it was faster and more efficient to do it himself. Unfortunately, the pattern continued and my grown-up son is having to learn things that I didn’t take the time to teach him either.

I’m not experiencing any regrets or angst over this; just acknowledging lessons I wish I had learned earlier. I think I learned—and passed on—the things that matter most. But, if I had it to do again …

There are other lessons I wish I had learned earlier, especially as a young pastor. Now that I spend time coaching and consulting pastors and church leaders, I am trying to pass on some of those. I think they are also applicable to a broader vocational spectrum.

Everyone I know wants to experience vocational “success.” We want to achieve and be noticed. We want to be “in.” I am at the point in life where the desire for success has been replaced by the desire for significance. As I’ve been thinking about that today, I’ve thought of a three-step sequence of significance that perhaps seems a little counterintuitive, but stay with me to the end.

To be a part of the significance IN crowd:

Step 1 – Make yourself IN-dispensable. Become the go-to person, the one who can be counted on. Exceed expectations. Under-promise and over-deliver. Demonstrate integrity and build trust. Someone will be watching you and learning.

Step 2 – Make yourself IN-cognito. Getting noticed feels really good. It can be intoxicating, but those who remain IN-dispensable risk fatigue and burnout. They can become control freaks who never elevate those around them. The idea of making yourself IN-cognito is that you are elevating and empowering those around you to the point that you are giving leadership, stepping in when necessary, but sharing both responsibility and recognition.

Step 3 – Make yourself IN-visible. You know your effectiveness as a leader when success may be accomplished without your presence, when recognition goes to your team, and when those you have taught advance beyond your abilities.

Second Timothy 2:2 (New International Version) says, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” 

Our lives matter so much to God that He wants us involved IN His eternal purposes. That’s a good crowd to be in.

Question: Where are you currently IN-dispensable?  IN-cognito?  IN-visible?


Gerry Lewis

What do you do with the bricks thrown at you? Stepping Stones or Stumbling blocks. 

 Sometimes the simplest things are the most profound.

“A successful person lays a FIRM FOUNDATION with the bricks others throw at her.” The quote summarizes the life of Sara Blakely. 

Billionaire CEO Sara Blakely Says These 7 Words Are the Best Career Advice She Ever GotSometimes the simplest things are the most profound.
Sara Blakely founded Spanx in her late 20s. The company made $4 million in sales in its first year and $10 million in its second year. In 2012, Forbes named Blakely the youngest self-made woman billionaire in the world.
She is clearly massively successful. Yet when asked what the best advice she ever received was, she doesn’t talk about success.
Instead, she talks about how, as a child, her father would sit her down at the dining room table and ask her the same question:

“What did you fail at this week?”

He didn’t want to know how many As she’d gotten. He wasn’t interested in how many girl scout cookies she’d sold, how many goals she’d scored on her soccer team, or whether she’d gotten a perfect score on her math test.

No, he wanted to know what she had failed at. And when she told him, do you know what his reaction was?

He high-fived her.

Think about that for a minute: Every week growing up, her father made her reflect on something she’d failed at, then showed her that not only was she still loved after failing, but she was celebrated for it.

In an interview for Fortune, Blakely said, “I didn’t realize at the time how much this advice would define not only my future, but my definition of failure. I have realized as an entrepreneur that so many people don’t pursue their idea because they were scared or afraid of what could happen. My dad taught me that failing simply just leads you to the next great thing.”

Speaking of that, Blakely herself failed the LSATs twice before founding Spanx. On that particular chapter of her life, she says, “It was one of many tests that showed me how some of the biggest failures in our lives just nudge us into another path.”

Those who’ve made it big repeat that one of the main reasons they got to where they are is by taking risks. Over and over, they talk about the importance of taking leaps, which sometimes means falling down:

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” –Robert F. Kennedy

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” –Winston Churchill

“Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.” –Oprah

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” –Thomas Edison

Yet, for as many times as we are told that taking risks is good and failing is OK, we tend to shy away from it in our own lives. Why? Probably because we grew up in schools that tended to only reward “success” (getting the answer right). We were trained to become perfectionists.

If you’re going to rewrite that script, it’s not going to be by convincing yourself of it intellectually. It’s going to be by actually doing things you’re not sure of or good at, then being proud of yourself for failing. It’s not just the failing that’ll help you get there–it’s the encouragement for trying in the first place.

So: What have you failed at this week?

If you can’t think of anything, go find something to suck at. If you can, give yourself a high-five.

Then go fail at something else.

Resurrection comes after a death. Success is embedded in failure. You may fail at it but you not a failure until you stop at it. 

Article first appeared at 

An Open Letter to the Weary Pastor by Mike McKinley

Dear brother in the ministry,Most people experience seasons of weariness from time to time in their lives, but those who labor in pastoral ministry may find that their daily work makes them particularly prone to that mixture of tiredness and discouragement. Weariness flourishes when our hearts are preoccupied by the situation immediately in front us, but the message of the gospel has a way of putting its finger under the chin of weary pastors and gently raising our gaze to the sure hope that is on the horizon.If you are wearied by the burdens of ministry . . . Continue reading An Open Letter to the Weary Pastor by Mike McKinley